News flash! Every week, following the Board meeting, Supervisor Kuehl picks five items you might find interesting, important, and/or fun. It’s your way to get a quick rundown of several highlights of the meeting in no more than 5 minutes! Looking for more? Click here to get the entire agenda.
Appointments: Jennifer Campbell & Howard Katz
I was very pleased to take the opportunity to appoint Jennifer Campbell to the Los Angeles County Veterans’ Advisory Commission at this week’s Board Meeting.
Jennifer is an Army Veteran, activated in 2003 in Operation Enduring Freedom. During her service, she was honored with the Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and Armed Forces Reserve Medal. She is currently the first female Commander of American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood, overseeing a membership of 1300+ veterans in Los Angeles. In 2020, she was asked to join the Mayor’s Veteran Advisory Board with a specific focus on homelessness, employment, and mental health initiatives. Jennifer’s personal and professional experience makes her uniquely qualified to advocate for veterans across all of LA County.
We also reappointed Howard Katz, a talented and experienced land-use attorney and Housing Consultant to nonprofits, to the Assessment Appeals Board to continue the excellent work he has been doing all along.
Hero Pay for Grocery and Drug Retail Workers
At Tuesday’s Board Meeting, we passed an ordinance proposed by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Holly Mitchell requiring certain large grocery and drug retail employers to pay their frontline workers an additional $5/hour in order to recognize the higher risks to which they are exposed as well as other costs they are incurring related to being an essential worker.
The ordinance applies to publicly traded companies or those with 300 more employees nationally and ten or more employees per store. To further protect workers, the ordinance specifically prohibits slashing certain benefits or retaliating against employees who exercise their rights to receive “hero pay.”
From the beginning of the pandemic, these workers have stepped up and put their health on the line to make sure that people had what they needed in order to stay safer at home. They have been indispensable, allowing society to function under unprecedented circumstances, and it is only right that their paychecks reflect that.
Developing Digital Divide Regional Strategic Plan
A startling 5.5% of households do not have either a computer or internet access, and 11.9% lack a broadband internet subscription. In our digital world, lack of access to high-speed internet means getting left behind. The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased our reliance on technology and further highlighted the necessity to address this pressing inequity as low-income communities struggle to keep up with distance learning and teleworking with limited WiFi and significant barriers to access.
LA County views all of our objectives through an equitable lens, and we are committed to furthering equity in the digital sphere. We passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Hilda Solis calling for a Countywide Strategic Plan, which will include a regional strategy, a partnership with MIT, and legislative advocacy to help advance the goal of bridging the digital divide.
Eviction Moratorium Extended
I am heartened by recent reductions in cases and deaths caused by COVID19 and hopeful that the end of the pandemic may be coming into view, but we are not out of the woods yet, and neither are our renters. No one should be threatened with eviction or made homeless by this pandemic, so, once again, we took steps to make sure that no one loses their home as a result of this prolonged public health crisis.
The Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Hilda Solis that extends the Eviction Moratorium through June 30, 2021. We also adopted a significant fine structure including up to $5000 per violation, per day, for violations of the tenant harassment and retaliation protections, and $10,000 per day if harassment is directed at a senior or disabled tenant.
Reopening Assistance for Schools
We want to do everything in our power to ensure our schools can reopen safely, so this week we passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Janice Hahn that includes directives to address challenges that may arise in that process.
The two main preventative measures this motion addressed are adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and proper ventilation. The motion calls for the distribution of one million masks and lays out steps to ensure schools that qualify can receive state and federal funding to upgrade their HVAC/ventilation systems.
Over the last year, we’ve learned a lot about the best ways to prepare to keep teachers and students safe when they return to our elementary schools. Masks and adequate ventilation are two very important elements, which is why this motion focuses on them. We can’t bring the risk of COVID19 transmission to absolute zero, so our focus now must be on being vigilant in reopening those sectors that can safely reopen by strictly adhering to recommended protocols.